Saturday, October 7, 2017

A TERRIBLE BEAUTY

Great-granddaughter Lunabella,
at the beginning of her journey


[*title taken from W.B.Yeats]


Where has it all gone,
scattered like pebbles
from a toddler's pail,
profligate,
as if there will always be More,
until, suddenly, there isn't?

Look back, look back,
down all of those sun-dappled years,
to the very beginning,
all fragrant with apple blossoms -
the dark and the light,
the bitter and the sweet,
such a terrible beauty*,
that catches at the throat,
mixed, as it is, in the
crust of parched earth,
slaked by a madman's draught
at the very last moment
before expiring.

The dying's last request
is always for water,
my grandmother's long white finger
pointing at the glass
when no more was she
able to speak.
And water,
that single tear
rolling down her cheek,
as she said goodbye to it all
and began that slow slow walk
across the mountains of the moon.

The older one grows,
the heavier that backpack of grief,
an endless well
we can draw from at random:

a paean of gratitude with its counterpoint of pain,
(so beautiful! so beautiful!),
a lament that catches in the back of the throat,
joy that aches, stirred like a slurry,
prickling, like cactus,
a lump of regret
that can never be swallowed,
as the hot tears roll down one's cheeks
because it is too soon,
too soon,
to be faced with leaving.

Too fast it all goes.
Towards the end, one’s life
begins to gallop like a willow-whipped horse,
frothing and frantic to escape the lash,
hooves relentlessly pounding, pounding,
carrying us off, all unwilling,
with still so much to do,
doomed riders
in a race to the unknown,
on which we wager
the biggest long-shot of our lives:
that somehow
we will still continue on
after death.

My worn old kit bag of memories
is filled to the brim with all I was given:
more laughter than tears,
more challenge than ease,
song and story and a high, hopeful heart,
an optimism I hold like a mantra,
refusing to surrender in the face of all that is daunting,
and more gratitude than can be put into words
for this magical realm,
where a leaf is a miracle
and a red fox sheer brilliance,
where the owl calls from the forest
in her quavery voice,
beckoning us in with her feathery wing,
where the grey wolf howls through our very souls,
where loneliness and fullness
compete for the same square inch
of living space in the hearts of the solitary,
and where daybreak and hellfire
alike streak the sky
with a Van Gogh's palette of vermilion and indigo,
whose silvery stars set us dreaming
into the soft sighing dark
of that welcoming Night.

* from W.B. Yeats

A poem from 2012, since I am pondering and processing death this week, with the passing of a dear friend. Apologies for its length. It was the only poem that spoke to me, for sharing with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United.

29 comments:

  1. So sorry to hear about your loss, thanks for sharing this poem and do hang in there. Warm greetings.

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  2. I understand your reflectiveness at this time, Sherry. Too fast it all goes, that is for sure! One can be thankful for the 'more laughter than tears,' but still it is difficult to think about the passage of time!

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  3. I am so sorry for your loss, Sherry and offer my deepest condolences.

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  4. So sorry... I think moments of great loss bring out the need for reflections.

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  5. My condolences for your sad loss.

    I didn't find the poem too long. I think it's a beautiful reflection on dying and living, turning into a wonderful paean to unquenchable Life.

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  6. It seems when we go through grief and great loss...it comes back out in beautiful poetry of life. My heart is with you Sherry...losing those we love is devastating.

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  7. Must be something in the water. It has been a bad month. Distant but warm thoughts.

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  8. Loss is difficult but they love in our hearts forever

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  9. Sorry for your loss..that backpack of grief can weigh down the best of shoulders. Wishing you strength.

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  10. Do not apologise for the length Sherry, I loved every word. I loved the wisdom of it, the love of life and loved ones and the sadness saying goodbye the beautiful wild world.

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  11. no apologies Sherry - was awed by the brimming of your words into something between elegy and eulogy - "a lament that catches in the back of the throat,
    joy that aches, stirred like a slurry,
    prickling, like cactus,
    a lump of regret
    that can never be swallowed,"

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  12. So many beautiful lines.
    Poignant grief stricken and wonderful.
    Losing a loved one is devastating. My sincere condolences.

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  13. Wishing that one day (most days) the laughter rises above the tears, and wins.

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  14. You already know how I felt about the poem you posted for your friend, and thanks for the email. Sorry I have not responded until now. Whilst this poem touches the area opened up by your friend's passing it is so much more YOUR song and it is right here in the poem that you address this eternal question.

    "we wager the biggest long-shot of our lives:that somehow we will still continue on after death."
    Here in these words you do just that.

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  15. Although your backpack of grief is heavy, surely there is more than one someone who can help you carry it. I will pray that those someones appear. Soon.

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  16. A few of the lines triggered some memories too. It's long, but strong, your poem.

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  17. Dear Sherry A fine selection. I loved the meandering and moving from one place to another. The section of the part, that talks about the last being too fast is wonderful and could be a poem in its self. I love it all. Each word each many layered thought.

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    Replies
    1. ...and no, it was not too long. Sherry, I am sorry about the loss of your friend. A beautiful way to say goodbye.

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  18. Having just lost a dear sister-friend, I identify with this, Sherry. The hardest part of aging is losing those dear to us one by one. Exquisite writing!

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  19. It is normal to question the journey in a time of loss. Sherry, never be sorry for the length of words. Sometimes one simply must speak.

    Wishing you peace my dear friend!

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  20. The lines about your grandmother and her request for water brought many tears from me. The last few days of my mother's life, I would carefully put a spoon of water to her lips so she could sip. That broke my heart. I am still tearing as I write. I am so sorry about the loss of your friend but her passing gifted you with this beautiful poem. And no, it is not long enough. Email me Sherry as I don't do Messenger on FB.

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  21. Wishing you inner peace, calm and light at this time, thanks for sharing your poem.

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  22. Death is always on our shoulder. Your poem is perfect and beautiful. My condolences for your loss. There are so many at our age. Something we never get used to but become wiser about its inevitability.

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  23. Loss is terrible--it just wrenches us--peace and light to you now and always--This was so eloquent in its sadness

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  24. I love how deep and thoughtful your poem is, Sherry. And the length just makes it all more suitable for its themes. Great write!

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  25. Magnificent. It spoke to me too, Sherry. When friends 'fall' beside us, in this journey of life, this is where our thoughts go. Thank you for searching out the words - eloquent, poignant words ... to guide us.

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  26. so sorry for your loss and your words are so touching so soft and beautifully woven in a blanket of mourning Take care

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  27. Something we never get used to but become wiser about its inevitability.


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Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!